“Critic proof” is a phrase people say when they really want to say “this is kind of terrible but it will make lots of money”. Though I really want to make a pun about no critic sinking this battleship, I’ll just say that Battleship is definitely “critic proof”. No amount of criticism or discussion will stop people from seeing this thing. That is because it’s not really a movie, it’s a series of flashing lights and explosions designed to stimulate the pleasure center of the brain.
Talking about the synopsis of Battleship is a bit false, because it insinuates that there is a story. The movie begins with a frantic hunt for a chicken burrito by Alex Hopper(Taylor Kitsch)in hopes of winning over Sam(Brooklyn Decker), a girl who has obviously never eaten a chicken burrito in her life. This hunt includes breaking and entering, a police chase, and an eventual taser to the back. But, gulldarnit, Alex gets her that chicken burrito, and she obviously falls in love with this valiant hero. This is our protagonist. This is our story. Add aliens, and yes, a battleship and you have this script all wrapped up.
As I said, nothing any critic can say will stop this movie from raking in millions and I really don’t have a problem with that. There is a market for ridiculous and, let’s face it, purely dumb entertainment. I can’t explain it, and I have no real desire to. There are good movies, there are bad movies, and there are cash cow movies where good or bad doesn’t really apply. It is a spectacle. I accept that. Even in that context though, a portion of the movie made me feel icky. That portion is the use of actual military veterans within the story.
There is one real-life veteran, Gregory D. Gadson, who is used more prominently than the rest. He is a veteran of the Army who also happens to be a bilateral, above the knee amputee. There is no doubt he is an incredible, brave man who sacrificed his body in the name of his beliefs. His introduction at a rehabilitation center with several other soldier amputees, though, seems exploitative at best. A camera that speeds through the rest of the film, noticeably slows and dwells on these amputees. These are real men and women who have sacrificed so much in the name of defending our country. These heroes are now relegated to being in a movie about aliens fighting our Navy in a way that is very similar to an old board game. It felt like a recruitment video thrown within a video game. “Yes, these soldiers literally gave life and limb to the cause, but now let’s get back to those aliens. Isn’t this cool?”
If the use of real soldiers, amputee or otherwise, advanced or contributed to the story of Battleship in any way, it could be seen as a fitting tribute to the amazing men and women in the armed forces. As the glossy, thematic void that Battleship is, however, the soldiers seem out of place and unwieldy.
Have you noticed that Liam Neeson hasn’t been mentioned yet? That’s because he isn’t really in this movie. He shows up with some of his trademarked scowls at the beginning, takes an hour long break, and finally shows up at the end to hand out medals. In that sense Liam Neeson is in the same boat as the audience. We show up confused and then a little angry, tap out for awhile, then show back up at the end only to shrug. I’m still waiting on my medal.